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Location Based Services Enabling Smart Connected Cities

- September 12, 2014 - 0 Comments

Smart Cities and the Internet of Everything have become commonly used terms over the past year or two. Both represent huge opportunities for both business growth and also for the delivery of better services and experiences for consumers and citizens alike. The size of this IoE opportunity has been widely predicted to exceed $14 Trillion[1] and within this just the Smart Cities component has been estimated to be worth $1,266 Billion[2] by 2019.  With this scale it is little wonder that it attracts a lot of interest and therefore a lot of very interesting innovation.

lbs1.1The Internet of Everything (IoE)  brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before.  Smart and Connected Cities takes this and applies it in an urban environment to create new capabilities , richer experiences and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals and countries.

While the Internet of Everything is about a connected grid of people, processes, data and things, what touches most of us is the ‘connecting people’ part of this equation.Within the greater IoE world, the Foundation for Delivering Next-Generation Citizen Services is how organizations and municipalities find innovative mechanisms to engage with us all.

How is ‘connecting people’ enabled?

For all of us being connected is now almost vital every moment of the day. Satisfying this growing demand means that more and more WiFi is being deployed, almost all now free or part of some wider payment method or plan so we don’t see it overtly. Its little wonder that new innovative capabilities that are designed to leverage both the mobile revolution and proliferation of  WiFi are now available enable organizations add value to their business and increased services to their customers & citizens.  Broadly the ‘connecting people’ component of the IoT world has three main principles: Detect, Connect and Engage.

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Organizations across diverse industries are making mobile personalization a major part of their innovation strategy and using analytics and data to make better informed decisions, drive additional revenues or savings and deliver improved experiences and personalized content to the smartphone devices.

How are Innovative Cities taking advantage of this?

Smart Cities such as Barcelona and Nice, use information technology, network communications including WiFi, the Internet, and sensors to automate routine processes plus provide rapid and intelligent decision-making for creating dramatic efficiency and   cost savings in existing functions and processes.  Municipal leaders, politicians, civic planners and other key stakeholders in these Cities are now leveraging CMX and location based services to enable this exciting vision in new and innovative manners.

lbs1.4The city of Nice  has embarked upon this concept, in a project, called “Connected Boulevard,” , the city utilizes location based services using WiFi, leveraging leading edge technology to create innovative connected experiences by playing host to “guest” devices such as mobile phones and tablets used in the streets opening the door for the city to deliver highly relevant information, insights and services to its residents and its visitors.

Barcelona is another excellent example of forward thinking and leadership in the connected world. The Barcelona City Council knew that technology could help achieve these goals and provide improved services for the city and for its citizens. “We want to use the Internet to improve the daily lives of citizens,” says Manuel Sanroma, chief information officer for Barcelona City Council.

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Some of the interesting things that the city is enabling for connecting their citizens include:

1. Residents and tourists can use their mobile devices to browse the web, check email, or work. They can even stay connected on buses and will soon be able to receive content that is specific to their exact location.

2. City services are delivered more efficiently. Personnel can make smart decisions by gathering information from wireless sensors over the network. They can see temperature. Air quality. Pedestrian traffic. Trash bin fill levels. Open parking spaces, and more. Citizens can view some of the same information from their smartphones and help avoid crowded areas, busy restaurants or where air quality is best.

3. City planners have a better understanding of where people go and how they long they stay. The using WiFi triangulation the system counts the number of smartphones and tablets in different areas to create color-coded maps. City planners use the location information to plan both development and transportation initiatives and changes.

4. People who come to the city enjoy new experiences—which keep them coming back. They can look up today’s events on touchscreen kiosks at bus stops. Find and reserve parking spaces from their smartphones. Decide where to have a picnic after checking out air quality in different parts of the city. Soon they’ll be able to receive personalized shopping offers on their smartphones as they pass by stores.

The City of Barcelona’s visionary mayor, Xavier Trias, launched the project by creating a new department called Urban Habitat. It combines urban planning, environment, IT, transport, and infrastructure.  “We are using technology to make our social dream possible,” says Tony Vives, deputy mayor for Urban Habitat, Barcelona City Council. “Our goals are economic sustainability, social sustainability, and environmental sustainability.”

Barcelona faced and continues to face many challenges including:

  • How to stimulate local economy and enhance quality of life
  • Improve communications among city departments
  • Minimize government costs and improve service delivery

Yet results are already emerging that help validate their visionary thinking:

  • Revitalized city to help attract new businesses and events
  • Improved access to information about the city for residents and city employees
  • Reduced costs by increasing efficiency of parking, waste collection, street lighting, and other processes

Having the vision, the willingness and the capability to embrace these new concepts and ideas truly can enhance the experiences of citizens and visitors alike in these urban centers, opening the way for even more innovative and exciting opportunities. For example recently in Barcelona a startup demonstrated a smartphone application that creates new retail experiences. As you pass by restaurants and stores, you see “digital graffiti” on your device, such as coupons or specials. To encourage retailers and advertisers to participate, the city plans to share revenues.

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One of the key aspects is providing citizens and visitors with ubiquitous connectivity and access to a wide range of city services, this is usually delivered via City Wi-Fi. This enables anytime, anywhere access for citizens and visitors, promotes active participation, stimulates local commerce and the delivery of high relevant location based services. This delivers greater citizen and visitor services and experiences on their mobile devices, as well as forming the foundational network for IoE innovations in the area of City services and management.

Just imagine the possibilities; everything from being delivered location specific content to your device to being able to view the local street signs using your device’s camera in your own language. Certainly expect more innovation to follow.

The world is taking notice, already Barcelona had received the European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) prize for “introducing the use of new technologies to bring the city closer to citizens[3].”And CNNMoney in 2014 named Mayor Xavier Trias one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders[4].

The pace of change is increasing for cities and urban environments adopting technology, it is clear however that with the vision, the will to act, WiFi location based services can help drive this evolution and enhance the value of the mobile retail revolution to cities, citizens and visitors alike.


[1] Embracing the Internet of Everything to Capture Your Share of $14.4 Trillion,” Cisco white paper, February 2013. http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/innov/IoE_Economy.pdf

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